On your bikes!

The Vuelta de España, Spain's biggest cycle race and some would say a tougher test than the more famous Tour de France, gets underway In Marbella this August.

For the first time the three-week-long race will start in the town, with competitors arriving in Puerto Banus via boat and then racing along the seafront to finish on the beach in Marbella.

Although the start of the event will get huge media coverage in cycle-mad Spain, where names such a Delgado and Contador are mentioned in reverent tones, not everyone in Marbella is happy that the race is coming to town.

The job of getting Marbella's paseo in a condition for racing has caused considerable disruption, with large sections of the walkway being worked on. Along with the noise and dust that this has created, there have also been incidents where access to the beaches has been disrupted. Several beach bars have complained that their takings during what should be their busiest period have suffered dramatically.

The current Town Hall blames its predeccesor for the disruption, claiming that they had months to make the changes and did nothing.

Cycling has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons several times over the past few years, most noticably the  Operation Puerto trial, which resulted in several leading names being called before a Spanish judge to testify in their involvement in drug cheating.

I interviewed Lance Armstrong's right hand man, Tyler Hamilton, and he was open and honest about the scale of the cheating that took place - seemingly everyone was at it.

I've never been a huge fan of cycling, and even less so since I moved up to my place near Istán, a road that resembles a mini Tour de France most weekends as I'm stuck behind some sweating fat guy in Lycra. I used to pay good money for that kind of experience in my wild lifestyle days, but they are now way behind me.

My only saving grace is that I can now yell "Drug Fiends!!!" at the startled cyclists as I finally get past. I know it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but it's a simple pleasure...

This year's Vuelta de España starts on August 22 from Puerto Banus

 


Last Chance to view Art/Marbella

Today is the last day of Art/Marbella, the town's first international art fair at the Palacio de Ferias, Congresos y Exposiciones de Marbella.

This international art fair has seen nearly 40 galeries exhibiting, including names such as Baró Galeria from Brazil, FL Gallery from Italy, Narrative Projects from London, Filomena Soares from Portugal, as well as some of the most important galleries from Spain.

Portuguese curator Bruno Leitao is showcasing the artistic scene of Portugal and Madrid through the projects Portugal, Contact Zone and New Madrid.

Hungarian-born French artist Nicolas Schöffer, considered the father of cybernetic art and one of the pioneers of video art, is also exhibiting some his most representative works,  never before shown in Spain.

On Saturday Marbella mayor, Jose Bernal, visited the fair and was given a guided tour of some of the varied works on display.


"Our Cilla"

Cilla Black, who passed away at her holiday home in El Paraiso on Saturday night, was a regular visitor to Marbella.

Championed by The Beatles and the only female artist signed by their manager Brian Epstein, Liverpudlian Cilla had a series of hits during the 60s including "Step Inside Love" and "Anyone who had a Heart".

In the 80s Cilla became the queen of Saturday night TV in the UK with millions tuning into shows such as Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

Like other light entertainment figures such as Jimmy Tarbuck and Bruce Forsyth, Cilla bought a holiday villa near Marbella, and was often spotted in Puerto Banus, especially at Old Joys, where Marbella photographer Johnny Gates took this picture of me with her, and singer the late Andy Anderson.

Of the many tributes today, several from Marbella remembered Cilla and Andy belting out showstopping numbers in the piano bars of Banus, and commented that they would be enjoying a few more in heaven tonight!

 

RIP "Our Cilla"

 

With thanks to Johnny Gates for the photograph

 


Something for the Weekend? - David Guetta

Like him or loathe him (and I can hear several DJs shuddering at the mention of his name) David Guetta will be playing a packed show in Marbella tonight.

Some may complain that the Frenchman represents everything that's wrong with European Dance Music, and his shows have no spontaneity, but you can't deny that Guetta is the biggest and most commercially successful  DJ on the planet right now, as his multi-million selling records and remixes with the great and the good of R&B including Kellly Rowland, Rihianna and Nikki Minaj prove.

This is the second time that Guetta has played San Pedro's municipal stadium, and if last year's concert is anything to go by, you can expect traffic chaos as over 15,000 people try and get to the venue down the single lane access road and a  spectacular light and sound set.

And it's going to be loud. Last year I could hear the bass booming from up on the Istan road, and there have already been Social Media posts that neighbourhood windows have been shaking.

Whatever your views, Guetta's gig is a hell of a way to kick off August in Marbella!

 

Estadio Municipal San Pedro, 8pm


Gio's – Just great grub!

If you are looking for a family friendly restaurant that offers a welcoming atmosphere, value for money and delicious food,  you'll have trouble finding anywhere better than Gio's restaurant in Nueva Andalucia.

Situated the corner just across from the H10 Andalucia Plaza Hotel, Gio's attracts a mixed crowd of locals popping in for a coffee as well as tourists from the hotel, normally looking for a big boy's  breakfast to set them up for the day – or recover from the night before. (Gio's kitchen is open from 10am until late, Monday to Saturday).

One of the great things about Gio's is that it's flexible. They can accomodate you whether you want  a quick coffee, a full English breakfast, light lunch or family dinner. Gio's is great for kids as well, which must come in part from their Italian heritage.

There is a sunny terrace, as well as an air conditioned dining area, and a TV lounge with comfortable chairs and free wifi, great for catching up on your emails or updating your social media. Parking is simple as well, even in high season, which is a huge bonus.

There is a huge amount of choice on the menu that includes all day breakfasts, omlettes, toasties, baguettes, burgers, wraps, salads, steaks, fish as well as pasta and pizza and a children's menu.

We decided to try out the English Breakfast and it didn't disappoint – two fried eggs, sausages, bacon, tomato, mushrooms and baked beans hitting the spot perfectly.

We also tried the Gambas Pil Pil that had just the right amount of chili kick to it and had us enthusiastically dunking our bread rolls to savour the sauce and a burger that came with a Jenga style tower of chips and didn't last long. Sole as a main course was superb. You would pay much more for the same dish in “fashionable” restaurants, but the sole at Gio's was expertly cooked, beautifully presented and enthusiastically devoured

The meal was brilliant, and it came as no surpise to discover that Gio's was awarded a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence recently, as well as getting an official commendation from Marbella Town Hall.

As the saying goes “If it ain't broke, don't fix it” and it’s winning formula of good, honest food at value-for-money prices.

Gio's Cafeteria and Restaurant

Calle las Violetas 1

Nueva Andalucia

Tel: 952 811 671


Know before you go

British nationals took and incredible 60 million trips overseas in 2014.

Most of these trips passed without incident, but British Consular Staff handled over 470,000 enquires from around the world in 2014, dealing with everything from issuing emergency travel documents to helping those in hospital and providing a list of local lawyers, interpreters and doctors.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister the Right Honourable Grant Shapps (pictured above right) launched “Helping British Nationals Abroad” in Malaga on Thursday, a guide to the assistance that British Consulates can provide as well as offering helpful advice on how people can take responsibility for their own safety abroad.

These include simple steps such as checking the FCO travel advice, taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching the country and health risks before travelling as well as making sure that your documents, especially your passport, are kept secure.

 

For more information visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo

 

 

 


The great Alonso love in...

It's the middle of the summer sporting calendar in Spain. But the bad news means that we be subjected to one of my pet hates. Spanish sports commentators

Perhaps it is because I grew up during a golden age of commentators during the 70s, people like David Coleman, Peter Allis, Dan Makil, David Vine, Harry Carpenter and of course the peerless Murray Walker. They had the gift of making you feel part of the action, giving you informed and impartial advice and most importantly, knowing that they didn't have to fill every millisecond of the broadcast with chatter.

A lesson that is lost on Spanish commentators. Whatever sport they are covering, Spanish commentators feel that they have to get behind their team to an overwhelming extent. The worst example of this is Formula One. Sunday afternoon commentary on Formula One is not so much a sporting event, more of a cult to the Church of Fernando Alonso.

It doesn't help that the commentator Antonio Lobato obviously has a huge man crush on Fernando. I've watched several interviews that Lobato has conducted with Alonso and they have been toe curlingly bad. In one interview Alonso pushed the bald Lobato into a swimming pool and he came out with such a coy grin that I thought he was going to ask Fernando to towel him down.

The actual commentary is even worse. I'm not for a second doubting that Alonso is a massively talented driver (I friend of mine once had a Formula One test drive against the young Alonso and when asked why he was a second behind him on the timesheet replied “Because he’s Fxxxxing quick!”) But no matter what is happening in the race, all focus is on the blessed Fernando. And heaven forefend that he’s knocked out of the race.

This reaches its peak whenever Lewis Hamilton is mentioned. The Spanish demonise the British driver to the extent that a few years ago the Formula One coverage to every race had a ‘comic book’ style intro with Alonso as a Spanish hero, while Hamilton was an evil robot. I dropped my pre-race bowl of salted peanuts the first time I saw that, I can assure you. It may say a lot for Hamilton's composure that he did not make a complaint to the Spanish broadcasters. The late, great F1 World Champion and sometime Marbella resident James Hunt would probably have flattened Lobato with a single punch….


Something for the Weekend? - Minions

The story of the Minions begins at the dawn of time.

Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters - from T. rex to Napoleon - the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression.

But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he - alongside teen-age rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob - ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow.

The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock), the world's first supervillainess ever. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in modern London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind...from annihilation.

Showing now in English at the Cine Goya Marbella, Puerto Banus at 4 and 6pm. M


Sartorial Summer Suffering

Summertime is the cruelest season for the fashion conscious British male on the coast. While the fairer sex can simply throw on a beach cover up over their bikinis while women’s magazines are packed full of style tips of what to wear on the sand. Meanwhile, our continental counterparts look effortlessly stylish with a combination of polo shirts, preppy shorts or cool linen suits.

But for your average Brit, summer is a minefield. Take a short stroll along your local paseo and you’ll see what I mean. The only T-shirt that a British male would seem to be comfortable in is his team’s football top. (And if you think I’m joking, stand in arrivals at Malaga when the Newcastle flight gets in. It looks like a Newkie Brown flashmob), pirate shorts (ok if you are an eight-year-old Jack Sparrow fan, not so good if you’re in your 50s) and, horror of horrors, socks with sandals.

Mind you, I am myself without the odd fashion faux pas. As it’s boilingly hot up at the Casita at the moment, I’ve taken to wearing a sarong around the place a la Becks, to keep certain parts of me cool. Imagine my horror then, when dressed in said sarong and doing a little air guitar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the iPod, my gardener came round the corner. Neither of us knew where to look.

As the saying goes “It may feel so right, but it looks sarong”…


It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…

The launch of a Marbella based reality TV series, ‘Life on Marbs’ (and ten out of ten for the title by the way) has resulted in the usual anguished cries from ordinary expats. Although I use the word –‘ordinary’, advisedly. Most of the expats that I’ve met in my thirty years or so of living on the coast have been anything but ordinary.

In case you didn’t know ‘Life on Marbs’ takes an ‘Only Way is Essex’-style look at the party boys and girls in Puerto Banus, and as you would expect, there are more than a fair number of rent-a-bimbos – one calling herself the Marbella Barbie - champagne spraying and blokes who think that they are in a rap video, talking about partying with Premiership footballers, spending thousands in nightclubs and washing their watches in premium fizz. Don’t ask me why…

The reaction on Social Media has been predictable with anguished howls of complaint. Why oh why must television companies always pick people like this, they complain. Why don’t they have a show that looks at the lives of ordinary, hardworking expats in Spain, and not this motley collection of it-girls, wannabies and has-beens?

And though I never thought that I’d find myself wanting to defend trash TV, in this case I have to. Like it or loathe it, with its supercars, superyachts and the occasional supermodel all bathing in the Mediterranean sunshine, Marbella is a perfect location to shoot a programme. Marbella is an internationally recognised name in the same way that Miami or St. Tropez is, so when you prefix Marbella in front of anything, be it Marbella Belles, Marbella Blokes or Marbella Babes, the audience will automatically expect to see opening shots of the aforementioned supercar or yacht.

Somehow the ordinary bar owner in Fuengirola quietly serving pints to his locals looks a little tame when compared to a bunch of good looking, mainly cosmetically enhanced young people sunning themselves in million pound villas.

But to think that ‘Life on Marbs’ shows all of Marbella is akin to thinking ‘Made in Chelsea’ represents all of London. The programme focuses on a very small, albeit loud, slice of the colourful mix that makes up Marbella. But there is so much more to the town, which we locals would prefer is kept secret.

A friend of mine who works in the industry once confided that everyone gains 10 kilos and loses 20 points of IQ when they appear on TV. With ‘Life on Marbs’ where several of the cast have mistakenly called Puerto Banus ‘Pueta Banos’ we can assume that they didn’t have many more than 20 IQ points to begin with...

I’ll be sitting down to watch the programme in the same way that I used to watch ‘Dr. Who’ when I was a small boy. From behind the sofa with my hands over my eyes!